No matter how many team communications apps you’ve got, odds are your team still ends up using Twitter as the watercolor and txt messages or email or Twitter DMs for private one-to-one messages. They’re just easier. We’re all already used to using them, so why not just use them to communicate with our colleagues at work too?
But what if you had a team chat app that actually was easier to use for everyone? Slack is the newest shot at reinventing team chat, and it’s nice enough that our writing team at AppStorm has fallen in love with it. It’s real-time chat, private messaging, and archiving with search across everything in an app that’s simple to integrated in your team’s workflow. Here’s what’s great about Slack, and why it’s the team chat app your team should give a try.
At its core, Slack is just a group chat app, along the lines of Hipchat and Campfire. And yet, it’s so much more than that, something that’s apparent right from the signup. You can set it to let anyone with an @yourdomain.com email address automatically join your chat groups just by signing up, sans-invite, which makes it incredibly easy for everyone to start using. Then, it’s rather obvious to anyone how to use it, since it looks and works just like you’d expect, with @name links and Apple or Google style emoji — your choice. The web app works great, complete with customizable push notifications that work great with Safari 7 and Chrome, and there’s iOS and Android apps to take Slack on the go (though oddly, the mobile web app doesn’t let you chat — you’ll need the apps for that).
Then, there’s Channels, Direct Messages, and Private Groups. All channels in Slack are public chat rooms, visible to everyone in your team and referenceable in chats with a hashtag. Anyone can make a new channel to break off discussions about, say, cat gifs into a new space so they don’t distract everyone that’s busy talking about work. Private Groups work much the same, except of course they’re private — you can invite the people in your project, say, to talk about stuff in private with the same ease that you chat in the public channels. Anyone in the team can create channels and private groups on their own — no more waiting for admins to start new chat rooms for your new projects.
And then, there’s direct messages. They’re more like normal Slack chat than Twitter DMs, as you’d expect, but they’re just as easy to use. You can start a DM conversation with anyone by hovering over their name in chat, or view your full conversations in a separate page. There’s no reason to switch to Skype or email to talk directly with a colleague again — Slack makes it easier and quicker to keep it all together in one app.
Tying it all together is the fast search that’s in the top right of any view in Slack. You can search across all of your team’s chats, files, and even your own direct messages right from that one box. Search results show the chat line with the word you looked for, but you can select the result and see the surrounding conversation right in search without having to jump to a new page. It’s a simple and obvious way to find stuff others said and shared — something you can rarely do with ease when everyone’s messages are spread across a dozen apps.
Chat and direct messaging on their own are nice, and the search and notifications make them great. But there’s more. There’s brilliant file integration that lets you preview images, code and plain text files right in the chat, and share any other type of file you’d like — complete with the option for your team to comment on said files. You can import your old chat archives from HipChat, Flowdock, and Campfire, or in a TXT/CSV archive log, so you can search across everything your team’s ever talked about right inside Slack.
Then, there’s great integration with tons of other web apps that make it even better for the post-file world. Paste a Google Docs link in chat, for example, and Slack will add the file to your account and index its contents in the search. Dropbox integration lets you add files from your account to Slack, or backup Slack files to your account, while GitHub and Bitbucket integration post to a channel when code is committed to your repositories. There’s even Trello integration to bring your tasks to Slack, and Twitter integration that’ll show full Tweet cards when you post a link to a tweet. And there’s more integrations promised to be coming soon.
A Must-try App
I know, I know: Slack’s just a chat app, yet another similar app in a long line of chat apps that have each tried to revolutionize communications. And yet, Slack’s really got something right. Whether it’s the speediness or the brilliant integration of multiple chat rooms and private messaging, or the option to signup directly with a company email address, or the combination of all the above — it simply works great.
It promises to help you be less busy, a benefit I can’t attest to. But it does make team communications simpler, and just might keep you from having to CC everyone in the office all day long. And for remote teams, it’ll keep everyone a bit more connected without having to self-censor company stuff on Twitter.
A chat app that makes group chat and direct messages simple while integrating with everything else your team uses.9
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